When Breath Becomes Air
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When Breath Becomes Air

by

For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?
 
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.
 
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
 
Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.


From the Hardcover edition.

Title:When Breath Becomes Air
Edition Language:English
ISBN:
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:208 pages

    When Breath Becomes Air Reviews

  • Maggie Stiefvater
    May 29, 2016

    A gasping, desperate, powerful little book, bigger on the inside than outside. It's a little bit about dying, but more about being alive....

  • Diane S ?
    Jan 14, 2016

    As I finished this book with tears running down my face I asked myself, "Why did you read this book? You know it was going to be sad, how could a man dying of lung cancer before the age of forty be an...

  • Petra Eggs
    Feb 05, 2016

    I finished the book. I'm glad that I perservered with it. It's quite an odd book and an overall rating might be the sum of the parts, but is not going to reflect the writing or content of those parts....

  • Aisling
    Nov 22, 2015

    Oh dear. I was always told not to speak ill of the dead. It feels awful to give a three star rating to a nice guy (by all accounts) who is now dead. But I simply did not find this book compelling or i...

  • Elyse
    Nov 20, 2015

    1/12/16: Update: Just wanted to mention that this book goes on sale today. Its an amazing story!Paul Kalanithi studied literature at Stanford University. For his thesis, he studied the work of Walt Wh...

  • Iris P
    Dec 04, 2015

    Sharing this interesting New York Times interview with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi.She sounds like a very special person too:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/hea...********************************************...

  • Maxwell
    Jan 25, 2016

    I don't think you should read this book because the story of an incredibly gifted man who had his life taken away at such a young age might give you the motivation to live life more fully. I think you...

  • Jen
    Jan 24, 2016

    Unforgettable is what Verghese says in his foreword. I agree and am fighting for my own breath to write my thoughts about this stunning memoir that has left me gasping for air. The writing. The emotio...

  • Justin
    Aug 07, 2016

    I read this almost two months ago and realized I never reviewed it. When I finished the book, I just couldn't review it. It's a small book, but it's powerful. I didn't shed any tears at the end of it,...

  • Sabaa Tahir
    Jul 16, 2016

    Never has a book turned me into a sad sobbing mess so quickly. Philosophical, beautiful, moving, difficult, heartbreaking. Highly, HIGHLY recommend. ...

About Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi, M.D., was a neurosurgeon and writer. Paul grew up in Kingman, Arizona, before attending Stanford University, from which he graduated in 2000 with a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Human Biology. He earned an M.Phil in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine from the University of Cambridge before attending medical school. In 2007, Paul graduated cum-laude f